Unified Gulf Trademark Law approved


The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has announced its approval of a unified GCC Trademark Law. The purpose of the new law is to replace local trademark laws of each of the GCC member states, which are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Implementing Regulations are expected to be issued before the end of 2007.

A key feature of the new law is expected to be a broadening of the definition of a 'trademark', which will include sounds and smells. Some commentators also anticipate that the definition will extend to three-dimensional shapes.

Unregistered, but internationally well-known, trademarks are expected to be protected under the new law. It is not yet clear whether evidence of fame outside the GCC member states will be effective in achieving protection, or if only the fame inside the GCC member states will be recognized.

Trademarks will be vulnerable to revocation for non-use where there has been no use for a period of five consecutive years. Valid registrations will remain registered for a period of 10 years. There are some features of GCC member states' trademark law that remain unchanged under the new law.

There will be no unified filing system. Trademark applications will need to be filed separately in each GCC member state in order to gain protection. Further, separate applications will still be required in respect of each class of goods or services.

Interestingly, penalties for trademark infringement are expected to be more stringent than is currently the case in the GCC member states. Penalties may include a maximum of five years in prison and fines of up to $270,000.

There is some confusion as to when the new law will come into force. Some commentators claim that it became effective on December 10 2006. Others report that it will be in force early in 2008, after the Implementing Regulations have been issued.

Russell Woolford, Rouse & Co International, Dubai

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